Part of what makes James Wan's "The Conjuring" universe so nerve-wrecking is the seemingly endless fray of demonic entities and supernatural beings that waft in and out of people's dreams (or altered realities) with such ferocious mystery, that we become terrified of the sheer depth of terror swirling at the fringes of our consciousness. What doesn't always work is the filmmaker's attempt to affix an explanation of said entity. Corin Hardy's "The Nun" takes on the challenge of explaining (and explaining more) the character that jangled people's senses in a previous film with disastrous results. If less is more, than "The Nun" fails simply because it turns an atmospheric presence into a straight-forward hell raiser with a hammer sensibility of terror and jump scares timed to such obvious precision that the life is sucked right out of the film from the very beginning because it so desperately wants the absolute 'most'. It's also such a dimly lit affair (from DP Maxime Alexandre) that its visual scheme adds nothing but confusion to a horror film poised to wallow in disappointing mediocrity.
White Boy Rick
Told with all the handheld grittiness filmmaker Yann Demange promoted in his good debut film "'71", his first American funded effort is just as equally trenchant but far less resonant. This time, the bombed out center of violence isn't the U.K. but downtown Detroit in the early 80's as teenager Rick (Richie Merritt) and his father Rick (Matthew McConaughey) find inventive ways to sustain a living. For the older Rick, it's arms dealing (albeit with a license) and for young Rick, it parlaying his father's fringe interests into a high flying career of drug dealing and double crossing when the FBI come knocking. This type of story has been told dozens of times before with the only difference being its main character is a teenager, and Demange and screenwriters try their best to infuse "White Boy Rick" with a streak of originality including hearing the voice of the real-life Rick at the end, but the whole effort becomes mired in a been-there-done-that syndrome in which it never fully recovers.
Like a lurid pop-dream, Sam Levinson's "Assassination Nation" is a visually bold and simmering assault on everything from gender equality to the sometimes toxic nature of social media. Appropriating ages old literature from the likes of Nathanial Hawthorne and our nation's own descent into supernatural madness with the Salem witch trials (a town which our new film aptly mimics), writer and director Levinson has crafted a jaw-dropping tale that takes place in the very current when four teenage girls (played to perfection by Odessa Turner, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Abra) become targets- and subsequently are forced to become justice swinging vigilantes- after a computer hacker exposes the town's deep, dark personal secrets. Aided by some of the year's finest cinematography courtesy of Hungarian Marcell Rev and a thumping score by Ian Hutlquist, "Assassination Nation" ascends to wondrous heights in commentary and visual pastiche, masterfully stealing the whimpers that similarly themed films like the egregious "Purge" series aspire towards. Hopefully, this film will catch onto some sort of zeitgeist on home video as it came and went in theaters faster than most. I loved every second of it.
A National Geographic Films production whose story overcomes the company's very obvious template of narrative. Full thoughts on Dallas Film Now